Thirteen-year-old Emily Pullen says she plans to vote for Bill Clinton this November.
She's one of about 1 million kids in 11 states who are expected to cast ballots alongside their parents in a mock election organized by Kids Voting USA."I think it is a real privilege to be able to vote," says Pullen, an eighth-grader at Andersen Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz. "I think I have an impact now. I can encourage adults that I know to vote."
Kids Voting USA is a non-profit, non-partisan group that works to encourage voter participation, said the programs' president and executive director, Marilyn Evans. In addition to organizing the youth election, the group provides curriculum guides on politics for teachers in grades kindergarten through high school.
There's plenty of homework so students will get their parents involved. And when children attend the mock election, an adult must accompany them. Kid Voting organizers say they're also trying to increase adult voter turnout.
In Arizona areas that had Kids Voting, voter turnout increased 6 percent from 1986 to 1990, the group said.
Kids Voting also has affected daily student life at some schools where the program is taught.
Student elections at Andersen Junior High have gone beyond the usual popularity contest.
Students must register to vote, collect petition signatures to run and face recalls if they don't satisfy their constituents.
When collecting signatures, the first words out of the mouths of candidates are "Are you a registered voter?" said Terry Williams, head of Andersen's social studies department.
"They know that the only people who really count are those who vote," he said.
Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee will participate this year, Evans said.
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade at participating schools receive between six and 12 hours of Kids Voting curriculum. Then they can vote alongside adults during state and national elections in booths set up by Kids Voting staff.
The results of the mock election are announced.